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My question is about PhD positions in computer science, in EU (non UK) countries. In many cases, websites of research groups/professors advertise PhD positions with something like: "We are constantly looking for talented PhD students to join our group. Feel free to contact me anytime. Include your CV, grades and references.".

My questions are: How early should I apply to such positions, relative to the expected starting date of my PhD studies? How polished should such an application be? Should I prepare all material like letters of recommendation before contacting for such a position?

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I suggest you contact them with a letter of interest as soon as you can. You should have a CV and a SoP in good shape, but you probably have a short time to refine it if they show interest. Letters and such can probably be safely delayed for a bit until everyone is serious.

But, since they ask for references, names will probably do for the moment. But you should contact those people so they know that a formal request is forthcoming.

But, if this is an informal sort of thing, rather than a formal application, you can probably ramp up the details as they emerge.

It is a good idea, of course, to keep your CV up to date at all times. It is painful to have to put one together quickly and you are likely to forget some important things.

I'm assuming this is pretty much a universal thing. Not limited to EU. In some places, I think including the EU, applications often start and sometimes end with a PI. So, it isn't wise to be too informal.

  • Thanks! Are you sure that I should contact them as soon as I can, even if I'm not quite sure about my future? (But I am honestly interested in the research group). I'm not sure if I could start my PhD studies in 1 year or in 1.5 years, and I'm not sure if I could accept a position any time soon because I'm also looking for other universities to apply for. – Laakeri Nov 10 '19 at 21:33
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    The first contact can be an exploration. You can each explore any constraints, etc. It isn't a commitment. But, yes, early is better than missing an opportunity. – Buffy Nov 10 '19 at 21:38

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